Personal Training Professionals

News Room

Stamford Advocate | October 25, 2007

Easton man turns to franchising to grow fitness center business
Richard Lee, The Stamford Advocate, Conn.

Oct. 25--When he established Personal Training Professionals nine years ago in New Canaan, Jason Baer was careful to choose the right location. He sought an area with the right demographics -- where people have the desire and the money to afford their own trainers.

He is using the same criteria as he begins awarding the first franchises for his business. Baer, 34, is inviting people in the personal training profession to buy their own Personal Training Professionals franchise.

The franchise fee is $35,000, and franchise owners pay a 6 percent annual royalty.

"Our franchise model includes personal training, massage therapy, small-group exercises and youth fitness," said Baer, an Easton resident.

He estimated that startup costs will range be $133,000 to $201,000 and include the franchise fee, equipment, minimal building improvements, office supplies and accounting and legal fees.

Baer is offering buyers a demographic analysis and a three-to six-week training period in New Canaan. He also will visit franchisees' operations on a periodic basis.

"We're advertising in major publications in our industry and doing Internet and search engine advertising, as well as direct-mail ads based on lists we have," he said, adding that he has a half-dozen prospects in Massachusetts, Kansas, Pennsylvania and New York state. "We're extremely optimistic that we'll have sales soon."

Baer determined that using a franchising strategy was the best way to expand his business.

"I wanted to expand my business more rapidly. I'm very confident in my business model," said Baer, who employs 15 personal trainers, two massage therapists, a registered dietitian and two small-group instructors for yoga, pilates and youth fitness at his facility at 28 Vitti St.

"Our business plan designs-in unlimited earning potential by not eliminating segments of the population or limiting the number of individuals that can be trained at a single time," he said.

One of Baer's trainers is considering becoming a franchisee.

"I think our industry has done the public a great disservice by providing fast-food versions of personal training," said Lily Sing, a trainer at Personal Training Professionals. "I have personally experienced tremendous career growth at PTP, and now I am taking steps to own my own PTP franchise."

Baer, who has a fully equipped facility and a bachelor's degree in exercise science, typically charges $80 to $90 for one-hour sessions.

He said he believes the timing is right for his franchising effort as concerns increase about Americans' lifestyles and obesity.

"Fitness awareness has never been higher, and demand for personal training services in a professionally run training studio is on the rise," he said.

Franchise businesses are twice as likely to remain in operation after five years, compared with non-franchised small businesses, Baer said.

Many entrepreneurial personal trainers fail because they are operating in the wrong location or do not have a good business model, he said, not because they don't have the skills.

"Passion for fitness will only get professionals so far," Baer said. "Needed, too, are business smarts and the organizational muscle a franchise provides."

As a new franchise operator, Baer must be highly selective in choosing franchisees who are highly competent, motivated and team players, said Terry Hill, spokesman for the International Franchise Association in Washington D.C.

"He's got to sell them as co-marketers of the system. They have to buy into the process," Hill said, stressing the need to develop strong prototypes that new franchisees can emulate. "It's a matter of consistent communications and monitoring."

Some individuals may prefer to buy a franchise from an established company because of its tested business model, he said. Those who align themselves with a new franchise business may be taking a greater risk, but they also experience the satisfaction of helping shape a company from the ground floor.

New franchise companies that offer a unique product or service may have a better chance for survival than those that compete against established giants in a crowded market, he said.

Baer may have chosen a market that has some room for growth.

"It's not commonplace. We have fitness concepts. It's an unusual niche," Hill said. "That's the secret in this business."

-----

To see more of The Stamford Advocate, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.stamfordadvocate.com.

Copyright (c) 2007, The Stamford Advocate, Conn.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

For reprints, email tmsreprints@permissionsgroup.com, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.